I wrote this piece ten years ago, before the Euro 2000 football tournament.
In 1970, when I was nine years old and living in a small town in Ireland, I started to fill an album with football cards featuring players in that year’s World Cup. Pictured on the cover was the smiling Bobby Moore of 1966, being chaired by his team-mates and holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft. The England players wore jerseys of a glorious cherry red that reminded me of the taste of some rich cordial, with the ‘three lions’ crest that the FA shares, for some reason, with the O’Briens.
The small trophy had an understated beauty, and the players had a sort of grandeur: I was disappointed to find that they usually wore white. But when England played Brazil and West Germany that summer, somehow I already knew instinctively who to cheer for. And when I watch England’s matches in Euro 2000, nothing much will have changed. I’ve often felt somewhat furtive and guilty about hoping that England will lose, especially since I’ve known many very fine English people. But it’s not to do with them: it’s to do with St George and the dragon. I’ll now try to explain why I always cheer for the dragon. Continue reading